- Pacific salmon -- Columbia River Estuary (Or. and Wash.) -- Mortality
The continued decline of Columbia River salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) populations has long focused concerns on habitat changes upriver, particularly the effects of large hydroelectric dams. Increasing evidence that ocean conditions strongly influence salmon production, however, has raised questions about the importance of the estuarine environment to salmon and whether the hydropower system has affected estuarine-rearing habitats. In response to Northwest Power Planning Council recommendations, we initiated a review of what is known about the effects of the hydroelectric system on the hydrology, habitats, and ecology of the Columbia River estuary. Our goal was to develop recommendations for improving estuarine conditions or to identify research that may be needed before appropriate salmon-management changes can be defined. Our review and analyses addressed four major questions: (1) What habitats and processes support native salmon populations during the estuarine phase of their life cycle? (2) Have changes to the estuary had a significant role in salmon decline? (3) What have been the impacts of flow regulation on the hydrology, habitat, and biological interactions in the estuarine ecosystem? (4) What estuarine conditions are necessary to maintain salmonid diversity in the Columbia River basin?